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More school aid = more spending

   Last week I said suburban taxpayers might want to ask their local school boards if they plan on using a huge boost in state aid to increase spending or cut property taxes.

   The answer is in at one school district I looked at this week.

   State education aid to East Aurora schools is going up by $862,459 for the coming budget year.

   Spending in the district's proposed budget goes up by $849,554.

   Actually, there's not a direct cause and effect. The district's budget was shaped several months ago, before the governor and state Legislature decided to boost education aid by 8.7 percent statewide.

   Originally, district administrators proposed a budget that would have required a 5.9 percent increase in property tax collections. That figure has been bumped down several times since, and with the help of the increase in state aid, now stands at a proposed 2.16 percent.

   The East Aurora budget is a more or less status quo spending plan. Expenses are up 3.3 percent, compared with a projected inflation rate of 2.6 percent. To cover that increased spending, the district is using the added state aid, plus $337,242 in addition property tax revenues and $800,000 from reserves.

   Long story short, the big boost in state aid enables school officials to continue spending higher than the inflation rate while providing a back-handed form of property tax relief by allowing budget makers to raise taxes a little less they they were otherwise prepared to.

   In other words, it forestalls for at least another year any serious attempt at belt-tightening.

   I don't mean to pick on East Aurora. I mean, look at the Amherst Central School District. Its Board of Education on Tuesday passed a budget calling for the largest increase in property tax collections in more than 15 years.

   Voters will have the final say in all this, as budgets are subject to a referendum May 20.

   By the way, both districts have Web sites, fairly attractive ones with lots of information. Menus. Sports schedules. Board member profiles. But don't go looking for access to their budgets - they're not there.

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Local Government
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